Come celebrate Canadian winter fun during Winterlude in Canada’s Capital Region, February 2 to 19, 2018! Most festival activities are free and take place during the first three weekends of February each year (including Family Day, Monday, Feb. 19). Here are a few highlights of the 2018 programing taking place throughout Ottawa:
Crystal Garden in Confederation Park
The 40th Winterlude Kick-Off celebration takes place in Crystal Garden on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m! You’ll be entertained by beloved Canadian performer André-Philippe Gagnon, followed by a laser show and dancing to the tunes of DJ 4Korners. Return on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout Winterlude for the Sub-Zero Concerts when other Canadian entertainers and DJs warm up the crowds. Dancing outdoors in winter is a great way to stay warm!
Crystal Garden is also where you can admire dazzling ice sculptures created by professional carvers from around the world during the 31st International Ice-Carving Competition. Watch the carvers at work during competition times and return to see the finished masterpieces. The masterpieces are beautiful in the sun, snow and even at night when they’re lit up in colour. Want to see if you’ve cut out for ice carving? Register in advance for a few carving events that are open to public participation (space is limited).
Lots of other programming takes place at Crystal Garden throughout Winterlude. You might catch a performance by Tim Burr! Cirucs Lumberjack as he shows off his skills. Or stop at the CBC/Radio-Canada Olympic Games Rendez Vous where you can make believe you’re an Olympic athlete participating in hockey, curling or bobsleigh. Go Canada!
For extra fun, walk across Laurier Avenue to Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall. On weekends, there’s a craft pavilion, a climbing tower, and even ice dancing lessons on Feb. 3 (registration required)! Plus, the SENS Rink of Dreams is open every day for free skating.
Rideau Canal Skateway
Grab your skates or rent a pair and glide along the Rideau Canal Skateway – the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink!
Special programming is offered at sites along the Skateway, and special events are held on and near the ice. The Winterlude Triathlon on Feb. 3 at Dows Lake features brave athletes who skate, ski and run. On Feb. 9, for the second time in North America, dragon boats outfitted with special blades will race down the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway during the Ice Dragon Boat Festival at Dows Lake. And check out the 38th annual Accora Village Bed Race on Feb. 17 during which costumed teams race decorated hospital beds across the frozen ice. This beloved charity event is fun for all ages, so make sure to bring a camera!
The Skateway is weather dependent. When it is open to skating, it’s free day and night! To check the status and see current ice conditions, visit the Rideau Canal Skateway website. If the Skateway is closed, don’t despair! There are many other places to ice skate in Ottawa.
Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques Cartier Park
Snowflake Kingdom – a giant winter playground for young and old located at the North end of Jacques Cartier Park* in downtown Gatineau – is offered during the week (though usually closed for maintenance Tuesday and Wednesday) and on weekends. This winter wonderland features snow slides, skiing and snowboarding lessons, dog sledding, an Indigenous Village, an obstacle course, extreme aerial acrobatic and trampoline shows and so much more!
The Winterlude mascots – the Ice Hogs family – are reputed to live in Snowflake Kingdom where they love to play in the snow and meet families. Give them a hug when you see them! (They also like to visit the other official Winterlude sites.)
*In 2018, Snowflake Kingdom has moved to the North end of Jacques Cartier Park, at 350 Laurier Street in Gatineau.
This winter, the South end of Jacques Cartier Park features Mosaïvernales – Gatineau 2018, a special snow and ice sculpture exhibit based on the popular 2017 MosaïCanada horticultural installation. Visit during the day or in the evenings when the masterpieces are lit up in colours and some are decorated with fire! The event takes place from January 26 to February 20, 2018, overlapping with Winterlude. However, Mosaïvernales is open daily, and there’s an entrance fee of $10 per person (free for children 12 and younger).
Free bus shuttle between official sites
Use the free OLG Sno-Bus to get between official Winterlude on weekends! OC Transpo and the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) provide a free shuttle service linking the Rideau Canal Skateway and Confederation Park Ottawa (including Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall), as well as Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. Snow-Bus stops are clearly indicated on Winterlude signs and on this map. The shuttles run as follows:
In Ottawa (red and white OC Transpo buses): Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., between Dows Lake, the Rideau Canal Skateway and Confederation Park
In Gatineau (blue and white STO buses): Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., between the Centre Robert-Guertin park-and-ride, Jacques Cartier Park North and Confederation Park
Monday, February 19 (Ontario Family Day): 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. between Dows Lake, the Rideau Canal Skateway Confederation Park and Jacques Cartier Park North
Additional programming throughout Ottawa
There’s tons more fun to be had throughout the city as Winterlude partners host events and activities throughout the festival. Here are just a few highlights:
- Gatineau Winter Beerfest at the Canadian Museum of History (Feb. 2-3)
- Fête frissons at the Shenkman Arts Centre (Feb. 3)
- 27th annual ByWard Market Stew Cook-Off (Feb. 9)
- Undercurrents Theatre Festival at the Arts Court Theatre (Feb. 7-17, select dates)
- Ottawa Winter Brewfest at Lansdowne (Feb. 16-17)
- Cool Science Saturday at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (Feb. 17)
- Outdoor DJ parties in the ByWard Market neighbourhood (Saturday and Sunday evenings during Winterlude)
- Snow sculptures in the Glebe neighbourhood (throughout Winterlude)
- Winterlude in the Arctic at the Canadian Museum of History (weekends)
- Special activities and tours at the Bytown Museum (weekends)
The full line up of events is available on the official Winterlude website.
Special services on the Rideau Canal Skateway include: ramps to access the Skateway, accessible heated change facilities and accessible portable toilets.
Accessible portable toilets are available at Jacques-Cartier Park North and Confederation Park, but access to these sites may be difficult due to weather conditions.
A limited number of accessible parking spots are available for people with disabilities at these paid parking lots:
- National Arts Centre (NAC)
- Ottawa City Hall
- Dows Lake parking (corner of Preston Street and Prince of Wales)
- Bronson Avenue’s National Capital Commission parking space